November and December can be difficult months for divorced dads, especially if it is you first holiday season since your marriage ended.
Even if you were lucky enough to divorce amicably, there are still some important considerations regarding who gets the kids and when, which can complicate the holidays.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as we head into the holidays that can help you survive the season as a divorced father.
Plan in advance
It is never a good idea to wait until the last minute to begin planning your holiday schedule. Make sure you review your decree and double check what it says about parenting time over the holidays.
Once you figure out who gets the kids and when, communicate with your ex so you are both clear about drop-off and pick-up times. Determining exactly how the exchanges should work will help minimize potential disagreements.
The more flexible divorced parents are, the more effectively they’re able to co-parent. This is doubly true during the holidays.
If your spouse has relatives in from out of town during your parenting time, offer to trade days so that your kids can see their extended family. Your ex will be more likely to extend the same courtesy to you the next time you need some leniency.
Build new traditions
A common mistake divorced parents often make during the holidays is getting stuck in the mindset that everything needs to be just like it was.
No matter how much you long for the happy, traditional celebrations from years past, you have to accept that you family has changed. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Use this time to start building new holiday traditions with your kids.
Go all out in decorating your house or apartment. Get creative with your holiday meal-planning. Or celebrate the season by taking a trip, so long as you follow your holiday parenting time order.
Don’t get stuck moping about how things used to be. Focus on moving forward and building new memories.
Don’t judge your emotions
While it’s still entirely possible to have a joyous holiday season after divorce, you’re still more than likely going to have to grapple with some unpleasant emotions.
Maybe you’re not over your ex. Or, more than likely, you’re going to have to spend one of the major holidays away from your kids. While you don’t want to wallow in self-pity, it’s OK to be bummed out about that.
Manage your expectations and don’t waste energy trying to avoid your emotions. Accept them, and give yourself a break.
Some find it useful to utilize the practice of mindful meditation to cope with these feelings and help pull them through the process.
Make your children the top priority
Above all else, put the interest of your children first during this holiday season.
While you might be coping with depression and anxiety during this time of year, it is crucial not to share that negativity with the kids.
This is probably very difficult for them too, so make sure they have an outlet to express their feelings and emotions.
You and your ex need to work together as cooperatively as possible to ensure the children have the chance to spend time with family on both sides. Keep them out of any parenting time disputes that arise and don’t get caught up in trying to one up your ex when it comes to gift giving.